World AIDS Day today
World AIDS Day 2011 is a significant landmark, coming as it does after the most optimistic commitments included in the declaration at the United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV in June 2011.
Among them are the achievements by 2015 of zero mother-to-child transmission, zero new infections and zero discrimination against people living with AIDS. For the first time in 30 years we could dream of a “world free of AIDS” and “getting to zero”.
This is due in no small measure to the blending of science and the unity of action.
There is growing recognition in the Caribbean that we have a golden opportunity to be the first region in the world to “get to zero” just as we did with the elimination of polio and smallpox in the 1980s by applying the principles of functional cooperation and shared leadership.
However, there is no room for complacency. HIV infections will not be reduced by depending solely on medicines or vaccines. Obstacles must be removed.
There is need to work assiduously for reforms to archaic laws and changing the stance of conservative lawmakers and others who view the epidemic as a moral issue rather than a public health crisis.
There is need to demonstrate empirically to development partners and national governments that withholding funding and support for life-saving programmes are inimical to the economic and social well-being of countries, regions and the world economy. There is need to challenge the health care systems that restrict access to those at risk.
And there is need to advocate and work to reduce stigma and discrimination and misinformation that continue to fan the flames of the disease.
The Caribbean is fortunate to have a set of dedicated regional institutions, including the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV (PANCAP), the Caribbean Business Coalition against HIV, the Caribbean Broadcasting Media Cooperation for HIV and the Caribbean Network of PLWA together with the support of UNAIDS.
These, together with vibrant national programmes, political will and the recently concluded Caribbean HIV Conference in The Bahamas in November 2011, fully demonstrate the reinforcing sustainability of science, creative leadership and action.
While this World AIDS Day comes against a backdrop of renewed hope, there is also the reality that gains in the HIV response are threatened by a decline in resources available for HIV prevention and treatment in low- and middle-income countries.
This could be further aggravated by the recently revised resource forecast showing a shortfall in funding available through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund). Fundamental to sustainability is the need to support the recent call of Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS executive director, for new financial modalities and sources of funding such as a financial transaction tax to maintain the momentum of the AIDS response for saving lives and getting to zero.
Statement by Edward Greene, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean on the occasion of World AIDS Day 2011.